Today’s U.S. domestic package express market is characterized by tepid growth, a downshifting by shippers from premium overnight services to lower-yielding deferred services – from air to ground. Additionally, the service standards and offerings of the major carriers have become homogenized to the point that they are more alike than ever before. Archrivals UPS® and FedEx® now publish rates for many services that are virtually identical, as are their service offerings. Most of the competition today between these two giants focuses on large accounts and increasingly complex contract negotiations over the discounts and incentives these accounts are offered.
The United States Postal Service® has done much in the last few years to differentiate itself from UPS and FedEx in terms of its pricing policy as well as its product portfolio. In the past few years, it has undertaken a number of major competitive initiatives, re-aligning and re-branding its portfolio of competitive services. It has continued to respond to the exploding demand from e-commerce shippers and their customers by developing services which address the shippers’ needs – expanding its light-weight package services and ounce-based pricing.
Competitively, the package express market today is increasingly commoditized: distinctions between competitors are less about pricing, product features or service standards and more about the value proposition: reliability, affordability and the fostering of relationships. In such a competitive environment, the spotlight shines more than ever on the principal customer touch-points: drivers, customer service centers and, most importantly, the sales organization.
Sales force employees are intimately involved with customers from initial contact, matching services and features to customer needs, articulating the value proposition to delivering on it. Sales employees are actively engaged in contract negotiations, and, along with customer service employees, they are on the front lines troubleshooting problems and fine-tuning the service offering in order to retain and grow the business.
Recently, Neopost USA commissioned The Colography Group, an independent pioneer in empirically-based transportation market research and consulting, to conduct a study measuring shippers’ perceptions of sales force effectiveness, in order to put some dimensions around how the major carriers compare on this increasingly important aspect of competitiveness.
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